Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Peter Grimes in Nice

Nice’s golden winter light is not that of England’s North Sea coast. Nonetheless the Opéra de Nice’s new production of Peter Grimes did much to take us there.

Guillaume Tell in Monaco

Peasants revolt in a sea of Maserati and Ferrari’s.

LA Opera Presents Figaro 90210

Figaro 90210 is Vid Guerrerio’s modern version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo DaPonte’s 1786 opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Tristan und Isolde at the Wiener Staatsoper

David McVicar’s production of Wagner’s seminal music drama runs aground on the Cornish coast.

Songs of Night and Travel, Wigmore Hall

The coming of ‘Night’ brings darkness, shadows and mystery; sleep, dreams and nightmares; fancies, fantasies and passions.

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera

Umberto’s Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, now at the Royal Opera House, is no more about history than Jesus Christ Superstar is about theology.

Yevgeny Onegin in Warsaw

Mariusz Treliński’s staging of Tchaikovsky’s operatic masterpiece is visually fascinating but psychologically confusing

Orfeo at the Roundhouse, Royal Opera

The regal trumpets and sackbuts sound their bold herald and, followed by admiring eyes, the powers of state and church begin their dignified procession along a sloping walkway to assume their lofty positions upon the central dais.

Idomeneo in Montpellier

Vestiges of a momentous era . . .

L’elisir d’amore in Marseille

There were hints that L’elisir is one of the great bel canto masterpieces.

Das Liebesverbot opens the new season at Teatro Verdi in Trieste

Aron Stiehl’s production of this rare early Wagner opera cheerfully brings commedia dell’arte to La Cage aux Folles.

Amsterdam: Lohengrin Lite

Stage director Pierre Audi is not one to be strictly representational in his story telling.

Fidelio, Manitoba Opera

For the first time in its 42-year history, Manitoba Opera presented Beethoven’s mighty ode to freedom, Fidelio, with an extraordinary production that resonated as loudly as tolling bells of freedom.

The Hilliard Ensemble: Farewell Concert at Wigmore Hall

Forty-one years is a long time for any partnership to be sustained and to flourish — be it musical, commercial or marital! And, given The Hilliard Ensemble’s ongoing reputation as one of the world’s finest a cappella groups, noted for their performances of works dating from the 11 th century to the present day, it must have been a tough decision to call an end to more than four decades of superlative music-making.

Fidelio opens new season at La Scala

Daniel Barenboim makes a triumphant departure as direttore musicale del Teatro alla Scala with Beethoven’s operatic masterpiece.

Mahler Songs: Christian Gerhaher, Wigmore Hall

Star singer and star composer, a combination guaranteed to bring in the fans. Christian Gerhaher sang Mahler at the Wigmore Hall with Gerold Huber. Gerhaher shot to fame when he sang Wolfram at the Royal Opera House Tannhäuser in 2010.

Modernity vanquished? Verdi Un ballo in maschera, Royal Opera House, London

Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera at the Royal Opera House — a masked ball in every sense, where nothing is quite what it seems.

La Traviata in Ljubljana Slovenia

Small country, small opera house — big ensemble spirit. Internationally acclaimed soprano Natalia Ushakova steps in for indisposed local Violetta with mixed results.

Otello in Bucharest — Moor’s the pity

Bulgarian director Vera Nemirova’s production of Otello for the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest was certainly full of new ideas — unfortunately all bad.

Il trovatore at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its current revival of the 2006-2007 production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Il trovatore by Sir David McVicar Lyric Opera has assembled a talented quintet of principal singers whose strengths match this conception of the opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011
19 Sep 2011

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011

The Wigmore Hall is the most respected centre of art song excellence in Britain and its Song Competition attracts interest from all over the world.

Wigmore Hall International Song Competition 2011

Dorottya Lang with Mehrdokht Manavi, Stuart Jackson with Jocelyn Freeman, Jonathan McGovern with Timothy End, Dominik Köninger with Volker Krafft. Wigmore Hall, London 8th September 2011.

 

Sir Ralph Kohn, head of the Kohn Foundation which supports the Competition and many other philanthropic ventures, asks in his introduction “Is a competition essential to identify outstanding talent”? So often competition results are controversial, and don’t reflect what happens later in the marketplace, but at the Wigmore Hall, the emphasis is less on competition than on nurturing young talent. Kohn adds, “None of Wagner’s ‘Beckmesserisms’ in our search for the next young Meistersinger”.

The 2011 Jury included Sir Ralph, Bernarda Fink, Graham Johnson, Thomas Quasthoff, Malcolm Martineau, Sarah Walker, Richard Stokes, Jeremy Geffen and both the present and past Directors of the Wigmore Hall, John Gilhooly and William Lyne. Judgement, though, is not the primary aim, for those who participate are encouraged to develop their skills. No “winners” or “losers” here, for all benefit.

Standards are very high. This year’s competition attracted 170 applicants from 33 countries. Some of the curriculum vitae are very impressive indeed, many applicants having extensive experience in fairly prominent roles. Many have won prizes before, and are involved with young artist schemes in major opera houses.

First prize went to baritone Dominik Köninger who made his debut in 2004 and who has worked extensively throughout Europe. He’s appeared in Baden-Baden, Stuttgart, Munich, Hamburg and the Theatre an der Wien. Next season, he joins the Komische Oper, Berlin. He has an attractively burnished voice, and his delivery is refined. He and his pianist Volker Krafft chose a programme of introspective songs, rather than those with immediate dramatic impact. In a competition which emphasizes German Lieder above all else, this demonstrated his fluency in “inward” expression. Köninger has a nice way of eliding words so they flow, without compromising diction. At times he showed real beauty, such as the way he infused the word “Lindenduft” (from Mahler’s Ich atmet einen linden Duft) with expansive warmth, evoking the scented breeze.

Second prize went to Stuart Jackson, one of the youngest participants, who is still attending the opera course at the Royal Academy of Music. Almost as soon as he started singing, I recognized his voice, though I’d heard him only once before, over a year ago, singing a few songs at a private recital which included many very well established performers. At the age of 25, very few singers are quite so distinctive that you remember their voices immediately, though you’ve forgotten the name and face.

Jackson’s tenor voice has natural colour and agility, but more importantly, he uses it intelligently. He’s very sensitive to emotional nuance. He sang several Russian songs, but had prepared so thoroughly that he conveyed mood so well that you could understand meaning. Jackson seems to relish the Russian syntax, sailing through the angular consonants of Mily Balakirev’s Son. A soldier is dying, dreaming of home : Jackson conveys both darkness and tenderness, so the song is deeply moving even if you don’t know the words.

Plenty of volume, too, huge crescendi where needed, but achieved through careful modulation, projected effectively outwards. No barking here, no straining for effect, but good technical control. A very good Liszt Pace non trovo (Petrach Sonnet no 104) indicates that Jackson can act with his voice. Jackson has an extremely interesting voice, but it’s his sensitivity to meaning and expressiveness that will give him an edge Properly polished and nurtured, Jackson will be someone to listen out for.

Song competitions are as much about identifying potential as about what happens in the finals. Perhaps that’s why mezzo-soprano Dorottya Lang won third prize, for she was so frozen by nerves that she didn’t come across well. Maybe she was better in the earlier heats. Potential, certainly, in baritone Jonathan McGovern. Again, nerves caused problems, which is hardly surprising, given the pressure these singers and pianists were under. McGovern has a nice, deep timbre, but also uses his brain. He chose Poulenc’s Four Songs from Le travail du peintre, shaping each song as Poulenc wanted, to reflect the poem and the painter described. Especially effective, though was his Ivor Gurney Epitaph in old mode. English song often suffers from over pretentious earnestness. McGovern free, almost conversational style communicates far better.

McGovern and his pianist Timothy End were awarded the Jean Meikle Prize for a duo, End sharing the Pianist Prize with Jonathan Ware, who did not appear in the finals. End’s not easy on his singers, being rather dominant and fast, but he’s a good player. I was impressed with Volker Krafft’s playing for Dominik Köninger. Krafft is primarily a conductor, and part of the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Scheme, so his background is in voice,. He let his singer take precedence, shining in passages where the singer falls silent.

Thomas Quasthoff won an award, too, the Wigmore Hall Medal for outstanding contributions to the art of Lieder. The medal has only been awatrded once before, to Matthias Goerne. I was at Quasthoff’s very first Wigmore Hall recital, his London debut. It was a night to remember, and a reminder that relatively unknown singers can become major stars.

Anne Ozorio

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):